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Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. brought a killer Marvel comics character to the small screen this past fall with the introduction of Robbie Reyes, A.K.A. Ghost Rider. He blazed onto the scene in the Season 4 premiere as a ghastly spirit of vengeance slaughtering gang members on the streets of Los Angeles, and was instrumental to many of the episodes of the first half of Season 4. But he was seemingly sent back down to hell much too soon in the midseason finale, and executive producer Jeffrey Bell had this to say about why Ghost Rider already had to go:
[Ghost Rider is] a lot for 22 [episodes], especially with everything else that we like and care about on the show. It would feel like one flavor over a long period of time, but we've certainly left it open.
Ghost Rider's presence on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Season 4 had been necessary due to S.H.I.E.L.D.'s conflict with antagonist Eli Morrow, so the comic anti-hero didn't feel like he was taking over the narrative from existing characters during his arc. Sure, Robbie may have gotten more time on screen than Fitz or Simmons, but neither Fitz nor Simmons have abilities gained from selling their souls to the devil. The focus on Ghost Rider worked because he was needed, and as Jeffrey Bell said to TVLine, he might feel like a bit much if he hangs around full time after the Eli Morrow arc. Besides, Ghost Rider is known as the "Spirit of Vengeance," not the "Spirit of Status Quo," and the death of Eli Morrow meant the satisfaction of his quest for revenge.
As it turns out, there were also practical reasons why Ghost Rider was going to need to go away after the first part of the season. The special effects required whenever Robbie transformed into Ghost Rider to wreak havoc on bad guys didn't come cheap, and other stories can be tackled with far lower expenses. The midseason finale indicated that we're in for a big plot about Life Model Decoys, and LMDs don't actually require special effects for most of their scenes, since they look like people. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. will simply be cheaper to produce without Ghost Rider as a main player for a while.
That said, those of us who loved Ghost Rider in the first half of Season 4 don't need to go into mourning just yet. Although Robbie fulfilled his quest for revenge with the death of Morrow and was seemingly blasted away to another dimension, he's not actually confirmed dead. Throw in all the Season 4 nods to a Ghost Rider that came before Robbie, and it seems unlikely that we've seen our last of the Spirit of Vengeance. Who knows? We might see another version of the character, or maybe we could get a full Ghost Rider series. Actor Gabriel Luna has already said that there are deals in place that could allow for a potential spinoff. I know I would watch.
Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns for the second half of Season 4 on Tuesday, January 10 at 10 p.m. ET. Check out our midseason TV premiere schedule to see what else will hit the airwaves in early 2017.